Donnerstag, 19. April 2012

Darker Than You Think by Jack Williamson

„Darker than you Think“
 (or “Schrödinger’s Werewolf")
 by Jack Williamson.
Lancer Books. 1963. $0.50

 My copy Front and Back.

Hey everyone!
I have a little bit of time on my hands so I thought I’d do a mini-post.
I want to present my own personal favourite Werewolf novel.
It’s not too difficult to choose a favourite Werewolf novel since the market for Werewolf novels isn’t exactly saturated!
“Darker than you Think” by “Jack Williamson” (1908-2006) first appeared as a novella in Unknown(Worlds), “John W. Campbell’s” companion magazine to “Astounding Science Fiction
It was later expanded into a full novel in 1948.
This is the first Werewolf novel that I can first remember reading. To be fair this isn’t as much of a “Werewolf” novel as it is a “Were-Beast” novel.
     Jack Williamson was one of the pioneers of modern SF with a writing career that spanned from 1928 all the way through to 2005!!!!!!! 
That’s correct!
The MAN was pounding a typewriter 78 years!!!!
Think about it!
This is a man who as a child travelled from Oklahoma to Arizona by covered wagon and ended up still writing SF into the 21st century. Respect Jack!
And he sure as hell enriched my life by doing so!
He also won the HUGO, Nebula Grand Master and world Fantasy Awards.
     Anyways, Mr. Williamson who was famous for a list of SF Short Stories and novels longer than my arm could also write a mean Horror story. If you don’t believe me, then get hold of an E-Book or old printed edition of “Wolves of Darkness” to read. It’ll knock you on your ass. I have it in an old hardback anthology called Rivals of Weird Tales.
     And now to the book, don’t let the fairly lame cover scare you off. The story has aged “fairly” well and is still quite a bit of fun. It starts out at the press conference of an expedition just returned from Mongolia. The expedition leader announces the discovery of a forgotten shadow race which threatens mankind. He dies during the press conference before he can give any details though. It turns out that mankind was once ruled by a race of shape shifters who were defeated by our distant ancestors. It turns out the witch hunts during the middle ages were actually an attempt to protect humanity from the “were wolves” who were trying to rise up again at the time. These “werewolves” are all over the globe and assume the shape of whatever creature is feared the most in the dominant human culture of where the live. It seems that they have psychic powers that let them manipulate their own physical reality and take on another form. They don’t grow into their “were-form” ala The Howling or American Werewolf. They recreate themselves. This does come across as “quantum physics” mumbo jumbo and does more harm to the story than good. You have to understand that this was written for the magazine “Unknown” that was edited by John W. Campbell. Campbell was the talented and demanding editor who took SF to new heights of maturity, sophistication and “realism” during his editorship of “Astounding Science Fiction”. He tried to apply this philosophy to Fantasy and Horror. It’s my opinion that this had mixed results. I personally don’t like “rational/logical” Fantasy or Horror. Also most of the stories from “Unknown” that have been anthologized just aren’t all the memorable for the most part. There a few exceptions though like DeCamp’s andPratt’s Harold Shea stories or the firstFafhrd and Gray Mouser adventure by Fritz Leiber. Manly WadeWellman also wrote quite a bit for “Unknown”. So it’s probably (it appears to be at least) an attempt to fit into the “Unknown” house style. 
Now back to the book. A young student of the dead explorer seems to be of mixed blood. He soon learns that he also has the shape shifter talent. What it ensues is a man torn between two races. Does he want to eat humanity or eat them? Save them or enslave them. His friends who are working against the shape shifters don’t trust him. The shape shifters don’t trust him all the much either, but still do their best to seduce him and win over his loyalty. William Barbee the protagonist who likes assuming the form of a huge sabre tooth tiger and carrying a naked lady around on his back might also be the “Night Child” who is the prophesied messiah who will lead the shape shifters back to their former supremacy and glory.
This all makes for a fun, exciting and tense story. If you can find a copy you should get it.

Here are some other paperback editions. 

As a closing note, what impresses me the most about Jack Williamson is that he managed to keep up with the times and stay relevant. Even “The Stonehenge Gate” that came out in 2005 and was written when he was over 90 years old was a thoroughly “modern written by a man who continued to grow and improve his entire career. That’s a hard  act to follow.

Take care and thanks for stopping by!


This didn't turn out to be a "mini post" after all. Sorry.

1 Kommentar:

  1. Couldn't swear to it, considering the disarray of my collection (which is about to become even more disarrayed, I guess, if I can hew to my resolve to box up the ones I've read & drag them up to the attic, the way I did last weekend with several hundred mostly horror VHS tapes I've watched), but I'm pretty sure the top-pictured edition is the one I own now. And that the second-pictured from the bottom was the first one I owned, which would be the one I read as a senior in high school while in the hospital.

    (Or maybe it was Williamson's REIGN OF WIZARDRY I read there. No reason it couldn't have been both, I suppose ... along with, memory tells me, THE HOBBIT & a few chunks of the Arkham volume of HPL collaborations, THE HORROR IN THE MUSEUM.)